Normally on the first weekend in May, the country’s horse racing fans are focused on Louisville, Kentucky. But in this unprecedented year, thoroughbred fans and bettors will be watching Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The Arkansas Derby is normally the last major prep race for the Kentucky Derby. This year’s Arkansas Derby was originally scheduled for April 11, but was moved to May 2 after Churchill Downs postponed their spring meet. Because of the increased interest in the race, Oaklawn Park has decided to split the race into two divisions. The result could produce massive opportunities for seasoned (or lucky) bettors.
Horse handicapper and friend of WagerTalk, Dave Valento, said earlier this week, “I’m halfway through handicapping Saturday’s Oaklawn Park card. It is the best card I’ve ever seen.”
Both divisions of the Arkansas Derby will carry the full value of 170 points for the Kentucky Derby, with the winner receiving 100 points, second-place getting 40, third-place receiving 20 and fourth getting ten points. Several of the horses entered into the Arkansas Derby field have already qualified for the Kentucky Derby, and are simply using this as a race to stay fresh and competitive during these uncertain times.
Division 1 of the Arkansas Derby will be Race 11 on Saturday’s card, scheduled for 6:29 p.m. ET. Let’s meet the field!
1) Charlatan (ML Even)
Jockey: Martin Garcia / Trainer: Bob Baffert
Notes: The latest in Bob Baffert’s amazing stable of three-year-olds. Charlatan is currently 6-to-1 in the Kentucky Derby futures pool, despite not being qualified for the race (yet). No one else in this field can compete with Charlatan’s speed figures, but there are a handful of questions that he needs to answer: He’s never shipped into a new track before; Martin Garcia has never ridden him before; and he’s never run more than one mile before.
2) My Friends Beer (ML 20-1)
Jockey: Declan Cannon / Trainer: Jeremiah O’Dwyer
Notes: He’s hit the board in six of his eight starts, so he’s capable of cracking the trifecta or superfecta. But this is a massive step up in class versus what he’s faced over the last couple months.
3) Mo Mosa (ML 30-1)
Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche / Trainer: Michael Maker
Notes: Not much of a shot, but he has the third-best early speed figure in the race behind Charlatan and Basin. Carmouche is an aggressive jockey who likes to show speed. Perhaps he can duel with the big guns long enough to set something up for a deep closer? Unlikely, but possible.
4) Gouverneur Morris (ML 9-2)
Jockey: John Velazquez / Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Notes: This can probably be said about a lot of horses on Saturday’s card: Very good horse, but doesn’t look good enough to beat the best. He was never a factor in last month’s Florida Derby against Tiz the Law, and he lost by five lengths to Maxfield in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Futurity. Gouverneur Morris has the backing of a great trainer, jockey, and pedigree, but it still doesn’t look good enough to beat the best in here.
5) Jungle Runner (ML 30-1)
Jockey: Tyler Baze / Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Notes: Steve Asmussen always has to be respected at Oaklawn. He’s won the trainer’s title in Arkansas ten times. But there’s not much to like about this one right now. In his two starts this year, Jungle Runner lost by 19 lengths and 22 lengths.
6) Shooters Shoot (SCRATCHED)
7) Wrecking Crew (ML 20-1)
Jockey: Flavien Prat / Trainer: Peter Miller
Notes: An intriguing longshot. He was purchased for $875K and ran in four graded stakes races as a two-year-old, so his connections had plenty of high expectations for him out of the gate. He won’t be intimidated by the quality of this field. His last three races have all been over a mile. Interesting quirk: He’s had a different jockey in every race of his career (6 entering Saturday).
8) Anneau d’Or (ML 6-1)
Jockey: Juan Hernandez / Trainer: Blaine Wright
Notes: Trainer Blaine Wright has won 20-percent of his races in 2020. In three starts as a two-year-old, Anneau d’Or picked up a win and two second-place finishes at the graded stakes level. All three of those races had jockey Juan Hernandez aboard. Definitely has the talent to be a factor.
9) Winning Impression (ML 15-1)
Jockey: Julien Leparoux / Trainer: Dallas Stewart
Notes: Out of the 83 horses that had a training session at Oaklawn last Friday, Winning Impression’s four-furlong breeze was the fastest. His last four races have all been over a mile, so Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile distance won’t be a factor. He’s a quality horse, but this is a big jump in class after never facing stakes company in the past.
10) Crypto Cash (ML 20-1)
Jockey: Corey Lanerie / Trainer: Ken McPeek
Notes: Crypto Cash has some nice closing speed and could factor into the trifecta and superfecta, but I don’t like how he keeps flipping from turf to dirt. His career started on turf, then switched to dirt, then won on the turf in November, and now he’s back on the dirt. He’s also had a different jockey for every race of his career. Nonetheless, his speed figures show than he can make a pretty strong late run.
11) Basin (ML 8-1)
Jockey: Ricardo Santana / Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Notes: Asmussen can’t seem to catch a break with this talented horse. This will be Basin’s sixth race. This will be the fourth time in those six races that he’s been saddled with either the rail, or the far outside post position. Basin’s last three races have all been run on a sloppy track. The weather looks pretty good on Saturday, so the track shouldn’t be an issue. Now can he overcome the post position? In those previous five starts, Basin never went off with odds above 5-to-1. I’d be a little surprised if he stayed at his morning line price of 8-to-1.